Roman names consisted of several parts :
- a praenomen, or given name. This is the equivalent of the modern
There were less than 20 male first names at Rome:
Appius Aulus Caeso Decimus Gaius
Gnaeus Lucius Manius Marcus Numerius
Publius Quintus Servius Sextus Spurius
Tiberius Titus Vibius
Only a dozen of them were commonly used. Compare this situation
with modern countries, particularly the United States, which use
thousands of different first names. Since there were so little of
them, the praenomina were often abbreviated to their first
For women, the praenomen was often the birth order in
the family: Primia, Secondia, etc.
- a nomen, or tribe name. There were originally a few
nomina only, but the list gradually expanded.
- a cognomen, or nickname. Because a lot of people could
share the same praenomen and nomen, the
cognomina were eventually transmitted from father to son and
became a sort of family name. It was possible to have several
cognomina, or no cognomen at all.
- an honorific name. Given to selected people to after a military
An example of a Roman name is P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus:
P. is the praenomen (Publius).
Credits: The praenomen list comes from
Cornelius is the nomen. The gens Cornelia was an
old patrician family.
Scipio is the cognomen, inherited from his father.
Africanus refers to his conquests in North Africa.